History of Jaisalmer

                 Ajmer | Alwar | Bikaner | Bundi | Chittorgrah | Jaipur | Jaisalmer | Jodhpur
Kishangrah | Kota | Udaipur | Sekhawati | Rajputs | Marwaries


  The 'Golden City' of Jaisalmer was founded in the year 1156 by a Bhatti Rajput prime Jaisala named the city from the vulnerable former capital of Lodhruva, 15 kms to the south-east. After he sought counsel of a hermit who lived in a cave near aspring on top of a rocky hill. The sucession of Maharajas of Jaisalmer trace their lineage back to the ruler of Bhatti Rajput Clan Jailasimha.

The History of Jaisalmer is as turbulant as the character of its bandit chiefs would lead one to expect. Ferociously independent, inordinately proud of a tenuous "divine" lineage; brave, even foolhardy in battle and often treacherous as allies, the Bhatti Rajputs were the most feared of all desert marauders. When they were on the rampage, the gates of neighboring fortresses were closed and the cowering citizens barred their doors and windows against these "wolf-packs of the wastes." Their major opponents were the powerful Rather clans of Jodhpur and Bikaner and endless ding-dong battles were waged for the possession of a petty fort,or meager waterhole. Cattle-stealing was a major pass time, along with falconry and the hunt.The source of income was the forced levies on the great caravans that traveled the ancient Spice Route on their way to imperial Delhi.

With the coming of the Muslims in the 13th and 14th centuries, the nature of the conflicts changed. The new enemy was not given to playing , if games according to a chivalri if bizarre, a code of conduct. The outsiders were here to found an empire and to propound Islam, a fanatically held faith. However, since Jaisalmer was situated deep in the desert, it escaped direct Muslim conquest. The Rawals, as the rulers were styled, agreed to pay an annual tribute to the Delhi Sultans in order to preserve a circumscribed independence.

Unfortunately, the Bhatti rulers could not always control their unruly vassal chiefs. The dire prophesy of Eesul, that the fort would be sacked, came about by their own rash actions.

The sieges of Jaisalmer are the subject of traditional ballads about Bhatti heroes. They are still sung at fairs and festivals by the hereditary bards, the bhaals and carans, and are the only record of the clan in medieval times. Although elaborately embellished with fabulous deeds of valor, they form the oral history of the period and have been an inspiration to the people during difficult times.According to the ballads, the first siege occurred during the reign of Allaud-din Khilji (1295 A.D.-1315 A.D.), provoked by a foolhardy raid on the royal baggage caravan. For seven long years, the besieging army tried to starve out the defenders. Finally, the breached the ramparts, and the Bhattis, yet facing certain defeat, proclaimed the terrible rite of johar. Once the women and children had perished by sword or fire, the men, clad in ceremonial saffron and opium-intoxicated, opened the gates and rushed out to meet a heroic death.

The second sack followed a daring raid on Sultan Ferozeshah's camp at Anasagar Lake, near Ajmer. Jaisalmer was once again overrun and the dread johar repeated.

The Jaisalmer rulers lined their coffers with illicit games won through cattle rustling and by more orthodox methods. religion and the fine arts flourished the rulers of Jaisalmer, and altough professing, Hinduism they were tolerent of Jainism, encouraging the construction of the beautiful temples which now grace the old city within the fort walls. Sculptural depictions of both Hindu and Jain deities and holy men stand side by side on the walls of these fine e fices. The visionary rulers commission scholars to copy precious sacred manuscri and books of ancient learning which m otherwise have been lost during Musli raids.

Jaisalmer's strategic position on the ca train routes between India and central As brought it great wealth. The merchants a townspeople built magnificent houses mansions, all exquisitely carved from wo and from golden-yellow sandstone. The havelis can be found elsewhere in Rajasth (notably in Shekhawati), but nowhere they quite as exotic as in Jaisalmer. Even t humblest of shops and houses displa something of the Rajput love of the deco tive arts in its most whimsical form. It likely to remain that way too, since the ci planners are keen to ensure that all ne buildings blend in with the old.

The rise of shipping trade and the port Bombay saw the decline of Jaisalmer. Independence, partition and the cutting the trade routes through Pakistan seeniingi sealed the city's fate, and water shortag could have meant its death sentence. Ho ever, the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pakistan war revealed Jaisalmer's strategic importance and the Indira Gandhi Canal to the north is beginning to restore life to the desert.


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